Willow's head was still pounding as Lex pulled up in front of the mansion. Between throbs of pain, she was aware enough to be grateful that this had happened now. If they had been in the middle of a real emergency (read: Apocalypse) she would need to spellcast for extended periods of time, using far more power than she had today. A reaction like this could be crippling. Instead of very, very annoying.
She climbed out of the car slowly, so as not to jar her head or the joints that had no good reason for aching. She had only done a little magic, for goodness sake; it's not like she'd been running hurdles or something. Lex and Xander both hurried forward to take her arms and help her. In her irritable mood, she almost shook them off but thought better of it. She could be all about the girl power sometime when her knees weren't threatening to give out.
Willow stopped when they got inside the door and said, "Let's have this little powwow in my room. You," she pointed at Lex, "get whatever you need to survive having your reality altered." She jabbed a finger at Xander. "Get some books to use as visual aids." She pointed at herself and ordered, "Crawl up the stairs and inhale some aspirin."
She didn't crawl up the stairs, but she did move fairly slowly. Willow was pleased to note that the boys scattered like mice to do her bidding. Not that mice ever did her bidding, but it sounded like fun. She entertained herself with Cinderella fantasies for the rest of the trip to her suite. It would be hilarious to see what cartoon rodents could make out of Sheila Rosenberg's prom dress.
Once in her rooms, Willow went straight to the bathroom. Without even turning on the light, she splashed her face with cold water and downed a few aspirin. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and almost gave herself a heart attack. Her hair was wet from the splashing, and for an instant it had looked black in the dimness of the bathroom. She flipped the light switch and stared intently at herself until she was certain her hair was soggy red and her eyes hazel green. She slumped against the counter in relief.
After a suitable period of slumpage, Willow dragged herself upright and went in search of her comfiest pajamas. She slid into the gratefully; worn flannel was a wonderful thing. Hauling a blanket off the bed, she carried it to the sitting room, where she ensconced herself on one of the loveseats. She was just starting to feel human again when Xander showed up, toting several of the books they'd kept under lock and key since leaving Cleveland.
He raised his eyebrows at her nest. "Settling in for the long winter?" he asked, dropping the books onto the coffee table.
Willow stuck her tongue out at him. "Be grateful I'm conscious," she said. "I'm planning on a nice, restful coma when we're done."
"Willow!" he protested in a whining voice. "I called dibs on the next coma. Everyone gets a coma but me," he pouted convincingly. She tried to smile, but apparently her smile wasn't nearly as convincing as Xander's pout. He frowned in concern and leaned down to touch her forehead.
"You okay?" he asked.
"I'll live. Unfortunately," she groaned. "I kinda sorta accidentally went cold turkey on the magic since we've been here."
He blinked. "None at all?"
"None at all," she confirmed. "Not even a smidgeon. Which should really be standardized into an accepted unit of measurement. If a pinch can be standard for cooking, a smidgeon should be standard for magic, right?" She peeked at him to see if the topic change had been enough to erase the worry. Nope. She burrowed deeper under her blanket, until only her nose and eyes were sticking out.
"I thought you were going to wait until I got here to start the important discussions," Lex said, striding into the room with a bottle of Scotch in one hand and glasses in the other.
"Trust us, we will not use up all the words. We've tried," Xander said.
Willow looked askance at the bottle of alcohol, then realized her face was too hidden for the expression to show. Pulling her face out of the blanket cocoon, she tried again. "I'm getting the feeling that you greatly underestimate how much of your reality we want to alter. You didn't even bring ice cream," she said.
"Food is on its way," Lex reassured her. "I didn't realize that this discussion required ice cream, but we can always order some when dinner arrives."
Xander dropped onto the unoccupied love seat. "I vote we hold off on the big reveal until after the food gets here."
Lex snorted. "Because pizza aids comprehension," he said sarcastically.
"No, because I don't want to be interrupted or overheard by the staff," Xander shrugged. "But don't mock the importance of snack foods in the fight against evil."
Lex agreed to contain his curiosity until after his dinner arrived. They made small talk until then, bantering about Smallville and the importance of caffeine. It would have been a perfectly normal conversation if anticipation hadn't been practically rolling off Lex. It was so rare for Willow to see that kind of emotion from him that she was almost disappointed when a servant appeared with a cart of food. She could have watched Lex trying not to bounce around the room for a lot longer. When the food did come, it was pizza and onion rings, with cupcakes and soda. Aside from the lack of doughnuts, it was the epitome of Scooby comfort food, which made Willow wonder just how much time Lex and Xander had been spending together.
Willow retreated back to her blanket with a plate full of food and a can of root beer. She took a sip and watched Lex seriously over the rim of her can. She took a deep breath and put the can down. "Okay," she began, "there are rules for this discussion."
"I had assumed there would be conditions." Lex nodded.
"Rule number one," Xander said. "We'll tell you our secrets, but there are things about our friends that we're not going to share."
"Rule number two: You don't try to find out about those things," Willow added.
Lex studied them both carefully. "You would trust me to keep my word about that?" he asked in a challenging voice.
Willow nodded slowly. "I can threaten you with death and dismemberment by unusual means, but I'd rather you just promise. It's faster."
A slow smile grew on Lex's face. "I promise not to try to find out any more about your friends than you choose to tell me."
"Alrighty, then," Xander said, leaning forward and rubbing his hands. "Listen to the epic tale of magic and mystery that is us." Willow was afraid he would continue in this vein, but he settled down fairly quickly. They worked together to tell the story, and it was just like patrolling. One was always watching to be sure the other didn't step into a trap or miss out on a good pun. It was hard work to keep Buffy out of the story, but they managed. Oh, they couldn't erase her entirely, but they managed to focus on demons and witches and magic rather than on a certain superstrong blonde.
Willow felt oddly proud to tell her story and see fascination and admiration in Lex's face. Deep down inside, she was still the mousy little nerd she'd been as a girl. Seeing Lex's reaction was like getting the respect of the captain of the basketball team. Of course she had gotten the respect of the captain of the basketball team, but only after a vampire with her face had beat him up. This was much better.
Xander showed Lex the books he'd brought. Lex's face lit up when he saw the illumination and the hand sewn bindings, and Willow thought he'd get along well with Giles. They shared a passion for history, and Willow thought Lex's brand of ruthlessness would appeal to Giles. Though the Watcher might not admit it, he shared that willingness to do whatever it took. She curled up on her love seat, laying her head on the arm and watching the two men through half-lidded eyes.
Lex imagined children felt this way about fairytales, this sense of wonder. He wouldn't know; his childhood had been full of historical sagas with allegorical meanings, not prophecy and sorcery. There didn't seem to be a happily ever after to Willow and Xander's tales, though. They bore a greater resemblance to the traditional fairytales he'd read as an adult, the ones with wonder and warning in equal measure than to anything distributed by Walt Disney. He was glad. He didn't know if he could have accepted an account of sweetness and light as easily.
Their stories were noticeably lacking in sweetness and light. The pretty princesses usually wanted to eat or sacrifice the white knight, and the monsters sometimes bore human faces. There was a weariness to the stories, even when told with a smile, that made Lex feel a new kinship with Xander and Willow. He didn't know many people his age who weren't little better than kids. This man and this woman knew what it meant to take responsibility, to fight for what they believed in, to lose loved ones while they stood helplessly by. They were a lot like Lex.
They didn't tell him everything, but Lex found he didn't care. They had warned him going in that they would keep some things from him to protect others. And frankly, the fact that they were trusting him with any of this was such a gift that he wasn't about to challenge them. He was a Luthor; they should have been hiding their secrets as deep as they could bury them. What his father would do with a witch! But they'd chosen not to run or hide, and though he knew that said as much about their characters as it did about his, he was still touched.
He drank Scotch and listened. He was itching to ask Willow for another demonstration, but she explained her reaction to the spell earlier, so he set the notion regretfully aside. The revelation of her addiction to magic was astonishing and fitting. It was the fact that it was possible to become addicted to magic that astonished him. He'd already seen that Willow could have an addictive personality, so that was less surprising. Lex had to rein in the mad scientist in him, who wanted to test Willow's limits, to see just how much damage she could really do. He was a smart man; he was confident he'd be able to learn the triggers that sent her dark. Then he could bring her to heel slowly, tidbitting her with small doses of black magic till she was trained like a hawk to attack at his command. He pushed those thoughts away. He was not that man. He refused to be that man. He poured himself another drink and tossed it back.
Xander grabbed a book from the table to illustrate a point, and Lex was pulled away from his silent guilt and back to the glory and revelation of the night. He had to restrain himself from snatching it out of Xander's hands. It was *old* and gorgeous. If Lex had been in an incredulous mood, the book would have done nothing but prove that others had shared Xander and Willows delusions. As it was, the book was not just a thing of beauty, but excellent supporting evidence. The casual way Xander handled it told Lex that he was used to leafing through rare tomes. He grinned and swallowed another Scotch. He was learning all kinds of fun things tonight.
He was so caught up in the books that didn't notice that Willow was no longer joining in the conversation. Lex glanced up to see Xander watching her with a gentle smile and followed his gaze. Asleep and bundled in flannel and blanket, Willow looked like a child. An innocent, sweet child who could never channel vast amounts of power to fight or commit evil. Xander's face was still soft when he turned to Lex.
"I think I should put her to bed," he said. Lex nodded. He watched Xander rousing Willow to her feet, leading her off to the bedroom with the ease of long practice. He listened to Xander's quiet orders and Willow's sleepy replies from the other room. The dark haired man slipped back through the door into the sitting room. "I think that's our cue to go," he said. He stooped to pick up the books from the coffee table, retrieving the one that Lex still held as well.
Lex smiled lazily at Xander and held out a hand for help up. He'd consumed enough Scotch to feel loose limbed and relaxed, but he couldn't blame the alcohol for his cheerful mood. He didn't remember ever feeling this uncomplicatedly happy before. Xander and Willow had a secret, a big, important secret that marked them as different than everyone else. And they'd told him. They'd trusted him.
On his feet, Lex swayed, leaning into Xander. He was surprised to note that they were about the same height. He always thought of Xander as taller. Maybe it was the hair. Lex often thought he would look more imposing if he had hair, if less memorable. He reached out a hand and swept the hair back from Xander's forehead.
"Yeah, I think we should get you to bed, too," Xander said with an indulgent smile. It was a nice smile. Xander had a pretty mouth. His lower lip was full, but his upper lip had a double curve to it that was deceptive. It made his mouth look smaller when it was at rest, so that his wide, crooked grin was a surprise.
Lex didn't actually decide to kiss him. His body just kept leaning, and then he was kissing. Xander was warm and solid, and if the books in his arms jabbed at Lex, Lex didn't mind very much. He let one hand trail languidly through the hair at the nape of Xander's neck as he deepened the kiss. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he registered that Xander was kissing him back, and he hummed happily into his mouth.
Lex pulled away and blinked at Xander, still stroking his hair. "Good night," he said. His hand slid down Xander's neck, over his shoulder, and then dropped to Lex's side. "I'll see you tomorrow," he yawned.
Lex Luthor kissed him.
Xander rolled over and punched his pillow to see if that made a difference. Nope. He still couldn't get settled. Lex Luthor kissed him.
It wasn't like he was averse to the idea of kissing, but kissing Lex hadn't really occurred to him before. He had known Lex was bisexual, of course. In fact, Lex was the whole reason Xander had actually admitted to being bisexual himself.
At seventeen, Xander had been a virgin who had devoted all of his fantasizing to girls. Especially the boobies parts of girls. Then came Halloween, and suddenly he had access to memories of Lex's sexual encounters with women and men. He tried to repress, but eventually he had to admit, at least to himself, that the vicarious guy sex was just as hot as the girl sex. But all those memories were from Lex's point of view, so he'd never considered Lex as a sex object. Now he couldn't get the thought out of his head.
Xander twisted around to lie on his other side. Lex had tasted like Scotch, which was a little disorienting, because in Xander's head, Scotch went with Giles and Giles did not go with kissing. Giles lived in a kiss-free zone. Of course, Lex had tasted like Scotch because he was drunk, which made Xander's brand new obsession even sadder. There was nothing like getting all worked up over a kiss the other person had been too drunk even to remember. He considered for a moment if it would make things better or worse if Lex didn't remember kissing him. On the one hand, if Lex didn't remember, they wouldn't have to go through post-kiss weirdness, and they could stay friends. On the other hand, there would be a much slimmer chance of future smoochies.
Xander sprawled on his back and stared up at the ceiling. He knew it was stupid to keep worrying about something that was so out of his control. Lex would remember or not. Lex would freak out or not. Lex would want more Xander-kisses or not. There was nothing Xander could do about it. He sighed. He wished Anya or Cordy were alive. Aside from being beautiful and willing to be in a relationship with Xander, the one thing they'd shared was brutal honesty; they could have cut through all the nonsense in Xander's head in no time. It was just his luck that his exes were both dead. Xander closed his eyes, determined to get to sleep. He wasn't thinking about anything. His mind was a void, just like his fifth grade teacher had said. He wasn't thinking about a single thing at all.
Lex Luthor kissed him.